Monitoring crop growth using WhatsApp
Successful launch of pink beef tomato Kawaguchi RZ in Poland
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic Rijk Zwaan is still introducing new varieties, albeit with some changes to the usual approach. After all, it is difficult to visit greenhouses in person nowadays. The solution lies in digital media, according to Marcin Mech from Rijk Zwaan Poland: “For example, WhatsApp is a perfect medium for sharing promotional videos as a way of staying in touch with growers and chain partners.” Kawaguchi RZ is proof that this approach works, because significantly more of this pink beef tomato will be grown in the coming season.
Pink beef tomato
"Whether in a sandwich or as a salad ingredient, Polish consumers love the fresh taste and firm texture of pink beef tomatoes", says Mech. In fact, this type accounts for 50% of the country’s total tomato production area – so Rijk Zwaan has chosen Poland as the first market to launch Kawaguchi with good reason. This newcomer outshines the current main variety in all respects: its Brix value is 0.2% higher on average, it has consistently produced a higher yield for the past three years and its shelf life is better. But the challenge was to convince potential customers of that without being able to visit them with the product.
Mech launched a unique initiative in conjunction with Polish tomato grower Adam Jaszczynski, whose high-tech company is known for its very high level of expertise. It regularly conducts trials of new products and always shares the results freely with other growers and chain partners. In 2019 Jaszczynski planted 1.5 ha of Kawaguchi. He opted to use the Emperador RZ rootstock and started with a plant density of 2.5 stems/m². He increased that by an extra stem in February 2020 and the first tomatoes were ready for harvesting on 23 March. “I wasn’t able to visit Jaszczynski’s company at all during that time, so I couldn’t monitor the tomatoes in the usual way,” explains Marcin Mech. “Thankfully we quickly switched to other communication channels. He continuously sent me photos and updates about the progression of the crop, so I was able to give him technical advice like that instead.”
From company visit to video call
Mech used the same ‘digital superhighway’ to contact potential customers. “Kawaguchi is our first pink beef tomato in Poland, so we wanted to promote it heavily to both existing and new chain partners. Honestly, we’ve had more contact via e-mail, video calls and WhatsApp in the past few months than ever before!” Besides introducing Kawaguchi, Rijk Zwaan is of course also keen to convince new growers to choose it as their main variety next year. As an alternative for company visits, Jaszczynski and Mech made a series of short videos with this pink beef tomato in the leading role. Those videos, in combination with convincing data, succeed in getting the message across: Kawaguchi is definitely a welcome addition in Poland.
Suitable for every product range
Growers will soon be placing their orders for tomato seed and Mech is expecting plenty of interest in the newcomer. “In 2020, Kawaguchi was grown on a total of 20 ha in Poland as a whole. The size of that production area will definitely increase in the upcoming season, and that’s partly due to our communication efforts.” Wholesalers and grocery chains/discounters have also expressed an interest in the product. Kawaguchi fits well into every range thanks to its appealing flavour and long shelf life, and the tomato’s attractive pink colour does the rest. “We’ve also been approached by several growers who want to run further trials with the variety. They now have sufficient confidence in it thanks to the videos made at Jaszczynski’s company. Mission accomplished!”
This tailored approach to the product launch is a good example of our initiatives to support growers and partners in their efforts to produce, distribute and/or process fresh fruit and vegetables. Based on the very latest market insights, we are keen to help the fresh produce chain to adapt to the ‘new economy’ by offering tailor-made, relevant and applicable advice and solutions. www.rijkzwaan.com/stronger-together